The opening refrain of Purple Haze was the initial; indication that the axis had been turned upside down, released 3 weeks before The Beatles Sgt Peppers, Are You Experienced was the first flowering of British psychedelia. Jimi Hendrix had been discovered plying his trade in New York city, his path was dusty and well trodden a gun for hire on the tough Chitlin Circuit backing artists like Little Richard and The Isley Brothers. Even in those days he showed a certain flare and showmanship, but the world was not prepared for such an assured and revolutionary debut album. Hendrix was well schooled in the blues, but his version was to take the blues and distort it with volume and reverb against a growing sensibility towards the open vistas of jazz.
Those first searing chords of Purple Haze are an open doorway to the spectacular and unseen, taking a funky blues lick and repeating as Mitch Mitchell's Elvin Jones' style drums pound out the opening. Hendrix referred to Purple Haze as a love song, certainly it seems that it was also influenced by a deepening experimentation with LSD. At the time of it's release it was seen as championing the cause of mind alteration, lyrically it was unmatched at the time for it's mind bending descriptions, "excuse me while I kiss the sky". Hey Joe was a more conventional work, it didn't really give any insight towards what was to come. Apart from Hendrix's jangly rhythm the standout is his vocal, the defiant tone as he runs to evade the hangman. Released as a single in October 1966 it reached #6 in the U.K and caused an immediate stir in the U.K especially amongst the growing R&B fraternity. Even on those early recordings there is a sense of how important a presence Mitch Mitchell was, with his jazz sensibilities he created a rhythm that was powerful and intense with those thunderous ham fisted rolls.
Love Or Confusion sounds like the first thing Hendrix did when he arrived in London was grab a copy of The Beatles' Revolver album, Hendrix adds more chaos and where Ringo was more restrained Mitchell just bulldozes his way through. Bass player Noel Redding approached his playing as more of a rhythm guitarist but it works he adds more fluency to each of the songs. May This Be Love shows an artist with a fully formed talent and a growing vision of where he wants his music to go. This track is percussive, Hendrix' playing is very plaintive he allows each note to float endlessly above Mitchell's ominous sounding toms. I Don't Live Today is Hendrix down and funky, once again Mitchell kicks things off with those pulverising drums, The Wind Cries Mary is deeply soulful, with strong melodic structures. Manic Depression sounds like an ominous warning of things to come for Hendrix, the frustration and chaos of his life and career dogged him and he was never able to gain the ascendancy.
Third Stone From The Sun is a brilliant stab at improvisational jazz, it's bold and an insight into Hendrix as a craftsman not just a guitar slinger who set his guitar on fire. Foxey Lady is a slice of psychedelic funk that would inspire the likes of Sly Stone and others across the Atlantic. Remember didn't appear on the U.S version of the album and has a more soul influence which doesn't appear on the rest of the album. The title track closes the album, it's almost a call to arms, "can you get your mind together, are you experienced, have you ever been experienced?" Hendrix feeds his solos through backward loops, wonderfully distorted, his guitar just seems to produce an endless flow. On the U.K version Hendrix shows the depth of his blues roots with Red House which has some truly breathtaking solos.